By Will Burge
Sitting in a large conference room normally reserved for offensive line meetings, Pat Shurmur sat before approximately 20 media members. The four-sided table held writers, reporters and anchors who vigorously took notes. Pictures of offensive lineman doing battle in the trenches hung on the wall above the table.
The conversation, however, didn’t focus on an actual game. It focused on the event jokingly referred to as the “Underwear Olympics” – officially, the NFL Draft Combine.
With a smile on his face and in a relaxed tone, Shurmur discussed dozens of topics, ranging from when the staff will leave for the combine in Indianapolis to whether the Browns will try to re-sign Mike Adams in the defensive secondary.
Shurmur revealed that he will call the offensive plays and that newly-hired offensive coordinator Brad Childress will stay in the coaches’ booth. Shurmur also said people may be jumping the gun by assuming the team has already settled on drafting Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III.
“Folks are making predictions while we’re still gathering information,” Shurmur said.
The subject of Colt McCoy dominated the conversation for most of the morning. When asked to assess McCoy’s future, Shurmur said, “Heck, I think he can be very good. If he plays at a high level, like I think he can, when he makes these improvements that means he can help us win football games.”
Shurmur said McCoy is healthy and that he benefitted more from Seneca Wallace’s mentoring than Wallace himself realizes.
Shurmur addressed the Browns’ need to improve all positions and the importance of getting some of their own players back into the building and not losing them to free agency.
Even when questioned about subjects which paint the organization in an unflattering light, Shurmur answered confidently, with candor. I asked Pat about the much-publicized link between the Browns’ front office and agent, Bob LaMonte, who counts Shurmur, Mike Holmgren, Tom Heckert and Childress among his clients.
Shurmur said, “I don’t think that is significant.” He then smiled and added, “He represents a lot of good people.”
The biggest story to me wasn’t what Shurmur said, but how he delivered it. In front of a backdrop of bagels, fruit and orange juice that the team provided for the meeting, Shurmur showed what most beat reporters already know – he’s a genuinely-likable guy.
Shurmur has taken heat from fans and media, and rightly so. But if you speak to him on a personal level, you begin to understand what the players and Mike Holmgren see in him.
Pat can be engaging, passionate, articulate and (brace yourself) actually pretty funny.
Unfortunately, the NFL doesn’t reward wins based on personality. There’s no, “Nice Guy Award,” for coaches. In fact, most successful coaches aren’t very engaging with fans and media.
It’s time for Shurmur to put a smile on Browns fans’ faces with his direction of the Browns on the field. If he does that, the stoic stare he tends to wear during most press conferences will be met with a much more pleasant reception.
Will Burge covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR. Listen to Will, Jerod Cherry and Emmett Golden from 7-9 p.m. weeknights on Three Deep.
Follow Will on Twitter @WillBurge
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